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    Volume 9 Issue 30| July 23, 2010|

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A Nice Cup of Tea

Aasha Mehreen Amin

If you're not a tea drinker this article will mean absolutely nothing to you. On the other hand, by some miracle, it may actually make you a convert. You see, for us tea aficionados (coffee people, sorry for the obvious but not spiteful exclusion) tea is not just some hot beverage, it is part of who we are, what we like; partaking of it defines our lifestyle. Without that morning perk up with a big mug of steaming, hot tea made to perfection, the whole day can turn out to be a disaster.

It will start with a dull, droning headache that may progress into a throbbing nightmare -- like some mad discotheque with pounding, techno music turned full volume in your head -- if there is no caffeine fix by late afternoon. Everything looks bleak if you don't have that one good cup of tea in the morning with breakfast. That is probably the only thing a tea drinker misses when travelling. It is literally a Herculean task to get anything close to a good cup of tea. If breakfast is included in your hotel deal, chances are that the only 'tea' you will get is some lukewarm, anaemic liquid that tastes like it's been trying to brew since 6 a.m. but failed miserably because of the complete apathy of the tea-maker. For all you know, he or she is probably a coffee person.

Sometimes if you're lucky you may get free teabags and a flask of hot water in the room so you can make your own tea even if it's not up to mark. After all, how good can tea taste made with coffee-mate ? For those who have raw tea only, are always in luck, they won't know the difference between 'tea bag' tea and brewed tea even if they had entered a one million dollar contest that required the contestant to declare which was which. These people may flirt with all the exotic teas in the world -- camomile, lemon, cinnamon, masala, green, ginseng -- they still are not really serious tea drinkers and only pretend to love tea for it's anti-aging, anti-cancer qualities.

I'm talking about the hard-core addicts -- people who started young, for whom the drink means tea with milk and sugar (now sugar substitutes as they grow older and diabetic). This is the classic that never gets old. The English may have introduced it to us but we perfected it with our own richness and colour.

I started when I was about two when tea was 'officially' not allowed. So I did what I had to do -- wait for the grownups to leave the breakfast table and reach up on my toes, to sip up the dregs, which, you may know, is the sweetest part of the tea. My mother being an avid tea drinker herself (see where it starts) did not find it surprising and soon enough our tea-drinking sessions became an enduring way for mother and daughter to bond.

Which brings us to the making of a grand cup of tea. As my mother taught me, the first thing you need is a good stainless steel tea pot which needs to be washed with hot, boiling water before the leaves are put in. After the right amount of spoonfulls of fresh tea leaves are dropped into the pot, the right amount of freshly-boiled water must be poured into it. If you want it to be really perfect, a dash of Earl Gray makes all the difference. Then you need to brew it for a few minutes, a tea-cosy (an extinct item in many parts of the world) has to cover the pot, by the way. After pouring the tea, the required amount of milk and sugar must be added depending on individual taste. The colour should be a rich brick and the texture smooth and silky. A cup of this tea with one's favourite snacks is a treat few can deny.

It braces you for the most trying days and allows you to put up with endless cups of office tea adulterated with condensed milk. It makes you animated even when your whole body is in fatigue mode, it makes you work like a maniac, meet ridiculous deadlines, smile at unexpected visitors on the busiest day of the week. It is a drink that brings like-minded people together. Even the chronic insomnia it gives does not take away from its allure.

That's why when the world seems crashing in on you and everything seems gloom and doom, you know what you need. A nice cup of tea.

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